The Booksmith is the best independent bookstore in San Francisco. It's been in business at the same location (in the Haight Ashbury district) since 1976 and manages a thriving business when other independents are, unfortunately, being forced to close their doors right and left. The store is able to maintain a large inventory, which is one of the keys to its success, and also carries a large selection of audio books. Public events such as book readings and signings. Thanks to its great location and reputation, the store draws world class authors to its events. They maintain a blog publicizing book events, so be sure to check out their website.
PROS: Big selection of books and audio books, lots of public events
If you've been shopping in all the fun and funky shops in the Haight, don't forget to stop in at House of Flys to complete your look. House of Flys is a sporting goods shop and carries everything for the surfing, skating and skiing enthusiast. I was most impressed, however, with their huge inventory of eyewear, including super cool snow goggles and every style of sunglasses imaginable. If you like sunglasses as much as I do, you'll have lots of fun trying on sunglasses and finding several really cool pairs for every occasion.
PROS: Great selection of sunglasses
When I walked into this coffee shop in the Haight in mid-August, it felt like one of those great local places that have been around for years. Little did I know the shop had opened less than two weeks before. The coffee shop serves the finest organic coffees and teas, with a twist: All over the coffee shop you will find reminders of those who have led the fight to end oppression and injustice before us, and motivation to go out and do the same. You'll want to spend hours in the comfy chairs in the back, browsing through the coffee shop's library of important books that have changed the world. The staff was warm and friendly, and I'd have never known they'd just opened for business mere weeks earlier. I especially appreciated that they were kind and helpful when I wanted to try to match my usual favorite coffee house beverage, a caramel macchiato. Many independent coffee shops look down their noses at me and are rude when I want it made the Starbucks way, but these folks didn't bat an eye and actually told me what to ask for next time so I wouldn't have to go through the hassle. (FYI: For a close match, order a vanilla latte with caramel sauce.) The coffee shop also hosts open mic nights every Friday and hosts groups looking to improve life for San Franciscans and the world at large.
PROS: Lots of motivation and warmth with your morning coffee
CONS: Not a one!
If you love all things Asian, be sure to check out Giant Robot. While many call it a toy store, it is so much more. The owners both grew up big fans of Japanese anime and started their own Japanese culture magazine, called Giant Robot. They then opened the Giant Robot store, which offers a mix of Japanese and American toys, t-shirts, comic books and other import and interesting items.
PROS: Great variety, lots of interesting import items
Luichiny is shoes, shoes, shoes! Not only would Carrie Bradshaw shop here for expensive, designer Italian shoes, some of her wilder and more adventurous friends might shop here as well. Luichiny caters not only to those with classic, elegant taste and style, but to those with a flair for the unique and edgy. Luichiny is a favorite among local strippers, dancers and cross-dressers because of its variety of stilettos, over the top boots and styles incorporating plenty of faux fur, leather, feathers and much more. Whether you're looking for something fabulous to go with your gown for the opera or something funky for a night on the town, this is the place to shop for shoes in San Francisco.
PROS: Huge and varied inventory of shoes, all styles, classy to over the top
Rooky Ricardo's is not a music store, it's an old-fashioned record shop. This store carries nothing but vinyl and lots of it, in every musical genre, from rock to pop to classical to jazz. Best of all, this shop is not geared toward collectors, but is for the everyday music lover and is run by people who love records. What this means is that you can find your favorite classics on vinyl at reasonable prices. The shop also carries a huge inventory of 45's. Bring your old albums and visit the store on the first Sunday of every month for the monthly record exchange!
PROS: Great inventory, low prices
Held Over is a thrift shop in the Haight district specializing in vintage clothing from the 1960's and 1970's. Here you'll find everything you need to fit in with the rest of the flower children, including classic 1960's jeans, t-shirts and jackets. I can spend hours browsing the racks in this shop. There are lots of casual and inexpensive clothes and accessories, to be sure, but there are also great vintage dresses and the occasional rare find, like a vintage leather jacket.
PROS: All price ranges, great vintage finds
Judalicious Juice is an independently owned and operated organic juice bar in the Outer Sunset district. Residents in this neighborhood caused quite a stir when Starbuck's wanted to open a coffee shop here. They took things into their own hands and decided to develop the area themselves. Besides creating a community garden, several neighborhood residents opened business of their own, businesses more in keeping with the neighborhood's personality. This juice bar featuring organic smoothies is located in the very space Starbuck's once had its eye on.
PROS: Yummy juice smoothies, all organic
Crossroads Trading Company has three locations in San Francisco and is markedly different from the usual thrift or consignment shop. Crossroads purchases used clothing from the community, but buys only high quality clothing, in current styles and in great condition. Prices are low, the stream of new inventory is constant and you can find designer labels at a fraction of the cost.
PROS: High quality used clothing at reasonable prices
The Buffalo Exchange is a consignment shop located in the heart of San Francisco's historic Haight Ashbury district. The atmosphere at the Buffalo Exchange is fun and funky. The clothes, shoes and accessory are hip and current. This is not your average thrift shop--you'll find quality, current styles here at reasonable prices.
PROS: Hip, funky, current styles at reasonable prices